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The spectral species concept in living color

Rocchini, Duccio; Santos, Maria J.; Ustin, Susan L.; Féret, Jean Baptiste; Asner, Gregory P.; Beierkuhnlein, Carl; Dalponte, Michele; Feilhauer, Hannes; Foody, Giles M.; Geller, Gary N.; Gillespie, Thomas W.; He, Kate S.; Kleijn, David; Leitão, Pedro J.; Malavasi, Marco; Moudrý, Vítězslav; Müllerová, Jana; Nagendra, Harini; Normand, Signe; Ricotta, Carlo; Schaepman, Michael E.; Schmidtlein, Sebastian; Skidmore, Andrew K.; Šímová, Petra; Torresani, Michele; Townsend, Philip A.; Turner, Woody; Vihervaara, Petteri; Wegmann, Martin; Lenoir, Jonathan

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Duccio Rocchini

Maria J. Santos

Susan L. Ustin

Jean Baptiste Féret

Gregory P. Asner

Carl Beierkuhnlein

Michele Dalponte

Hannes Feilhauer

Professor of Geographical Information

Gary N. Geller

Thomas W. Gillespie

Kate S. He

David Kleijn

Pedro J. Leitão

Marco Malavasi

Vítězslav Moudrý

Jana Müllerová

Harini Nagendra

Signe Normand

Carlo Ricotta

Michael E. Schaepman

Sebastian Schmidtlein

Andrew K. Skidmore

Petra Šímová

Michele Torresani

Philip A. Townsend

Woody Turner

Petteri Vihervaara

Martin Wegmann

Jonathan Lenoir


Biodiversity monitoring is an almost inconceivable challenge at the scale of the entire Earth. The current (and soon to be flown) generation of spaceborne and airborne optical sensors (i.e., imaging spectrometers) can collect detailed information at unprecedented spatial, temporal, and spectral resolutions. These new data streams are preceded by a revolution in modeling and analytics that can utilize the richness of these datasets to measure a wide range of plant traits, community composition, and ecosystem functions. At the heart of this framework for monitoring plant biodiversity is the idea of remotely identifying species by making use of the ‘spectral species’ concept. In theory, the spectral species concept can be defined as a species characterized by a unique spectral signature and thus remotely detectable within pixel units of a spectral image. In reality, depending on spatial resolution, pixels may contain several species which renders species-specific assignment of spectral information more challenging. The aim of this paper is to review the spectral species concept and relate it to underlying ecological principles, while also discussing the complexities, challenges and opportunities to apply this concept given current and future scientific advances in remote sensing.


Rocchini, D., Santos, M. J., Ustin, S. L., Féret, J. B., Asner, G. P., Beierkuhnlein, C., …Lenoir, J. (2022). The spectral species concept in living color. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 127(9), Article e2022JG007026.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 2, 2022
Online Publication Date Aug 13, 2022
Publication Date Sep 1, 2022
Deposit Date Aug 31, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 8, 2022
Journal Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Print ISSN 2169-8953
Electronic ISSN 2169-8961
Publisher American Geophysical Union (AGU)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 127
Issue 9
Article Number e2022JG007026
Keywords Paleontology; Atmospheric Science; Soil Science; Water Science and Technology; Ecology; Aquatic Science; Forestry
Public URL
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